I find golf about as entertaining as watching someone fill out their student loans, but there's no way I could say "no" to a golf-puzzler. Strip away the sporty premise and Golf Peaks boils down to pushing a ball around a mountain using limited movement options. These options are presented as one-time-use cards, and either move you a certain number of spaces (1, 2, 3 etc.), ignore height while moving a certain number of spaces, or a mixture of both. Gold Peaks' simplicity and soft art style were the biggest selling points for me, and I'm pleased to say that while the game is a definite brain burner, it doesn't fry your neurons like other titles (*coughincreparecough*) do.
There are 10 worlds in Golf Peaks containing 12 courses each, and all but two worlds introduce a new mechanic. This turns a sizable amount of the puzzles into bite-sized tutorials, but fret not!—there are plenty of opportunities to test your skills. Every world has three optional/expert courses, and the two worlds lacking new mechanics will instead feature the toughest, longest puzzles in the game. You can blow through a third of Golf Peaks in thirty minutes, but your pace will slow down tremendously as courses expand and more movement cards are added to your hand.
Difficulty-wise, Golf Peaks rides a fine line between being too easy and over-complicated. The aforementioned tutorial puzzles usually have an obvious route you can discern at a glance, while later puzzles require grid counting and reverse engineering. A lot of courses will appear to hold dozens of viable routes, but with a keen eye you can spot valuable locations where specific cards can come into play. For instance, in the screenshot below, the 3-tile jump card can only be used at the leftmost and rightmost areas of the playing field—and with that puzzle piece in place, you can deduce the purpose of the other cards in relation to it.
But there are two wrenches in the deterministic gears of Golf Peaks. The first is something that's just downright evil: on some puzzles you don't need to use every card. That means that some movement options are there solely to throw you off the trail, and it's never obvious which one it is. The second wrench is a bit more unfortunate: each world's gimmick has a bit of fuzziness around it. For the most part I like the mechanics and how varied they are, but there's a lot of little quirks that bend the rules. Hills end movement after being landed on, jump pads can be reactivated if you ricochet off a wall, and goal holes stop momentum while warp holes do not. So while you can look at your cards and deduce you have X-total planar movement and Y-total vertical movement, the various mechanics twist these results, increasing and decreasing their values depending on how you approach them.
Note that I don't think manipulating static movement values via the environment is poor design—it's just that it hides otherwise open information. The red herring cards combined with variable number values give Golf Peaks an imprecise feel, despite the game being technically precise. At times this can create exemplar moments of cunning (like putting the ball into water so it respawns where you want it), but it can also be the source of your stumping when you forget how a particular mechanic operates. Again, this isn't bad—just be prepared to do a lot of number tweaking in your head while plotting your path.
Golf Peaks is a delicious puzzle game that takes the perfect amount of time to get through. It demands more persistence than $1 appetizers like Hook or klocki, but the amount of fresh ideas and devious mechanics showcased here will more than keep you occupied. The biggest negative I can think of is that the music is lacking (being neither that memorable nor soothing), but the puzzles and visuals are the meat and potatoes of the game—and Golf Peaks absolutely delivers on both fronts. So don't let the silly sport theme fool you. Golf Peaks is about staring at a mountain, calculating how to conquer it, and basking in pride as you finally land that sweet hole-in-one... er, hole-in-seven-cards.